Iraqi authorities have embarked on a new operation to fortify the country's border with Iran to curb smuggling activities and infiltration, in a move that mirrors their recent actions on the Syrian border.
Operations to fortify the southeastern part of the border with Iran kicked off November 29, Iraqi officials told Al-Mashareq.
The work includes the construction of various types of barriers -- including earthen berms and barbed wire fencing -- and the installation of a ground surveillance and monitoring system.
"We did great work on the border with Syria, and we now want to replicate that on the border with Iran," said Lt. Gen. Hamid al-Husseini, now former commander of the Iraqi Border Guard Forces.
"Over a number of years, we succeeded in building an integrated fortification system that has significantly helped reduce smuggling and infiltration on the Syrian border," he said.
Iraqi forces were able to substantially reduce smuggling operations and infiltration from Syrian territory after installing protection systems to support the military units on the border with Syria.
"We are working to replicate the success by implementing a similar project to maintain the security of the Iraq-Iran border," al-Husseini said.
An Iraqi engineering team is conducting surveys and removing mines and explosive remnants of war that litter the southern border with Iran and have been there for decades.
The fortification is slated to begin in the Ras al-Bisha coastal area in Basra province, the southernmost point on the border with Iran, and will extend some 100km northwards to the town of Khanaqin in Diyala province.
It will include the construction of a border road supported by barricades and earthen berms, monitored by cameras and thermal sensors, al-Husseini said.
Fortified areas will be provided with more than 800 control towers to support monitoring and tracking operations and combat smugglers and illegal crossings, he said.
A larger number of outposts and guard points will be stationed along the border.
In early June, Basra governor Asaad al-Eidani said local government and the Joint Military Operations Command had agreed to build an earthen berm along the Shatt al-Arab to prevent the infiltration of smugglers and protect the border.
The Joint Military Operations Command said the earthen berm would be built in "al-Huwaizeh marshes, will be 51km long, dotted with border guard posts, and equipped with thermal cameras".
Iraq intends to enhance the security of its borders with Iran to contain the illegal drug trade, which is one of the most dangerous threats to Iraqi society, al-Eidani said.
Illicit narcotics have been flowing into the country at an increasing rate in recent years at the hands of smugglers and specialised smuggling networks who exploit border areas that are not appropriately secured, he said.
The new fortification plan would "virtually stop all smuggling operations, especially the smuggling of drugs", said Maj. Gen. Khalaf al-Badran, commander of the Border Guard Forces in Basra's 4th Region.
Joint efforts have begun to fortify the border according to plan, in order to secure and safeguard the country, he told Al-Mashareq.
Efforts are under way to secure the border strip with Iran using the most advanced monitoring systems to ensure control and close all border loopholes, al-Badran said.
The Iraqi ministries of oil and water resources, as well as local governments, are working on the project, he said.
Authorities are seeking to close 183 coastal passageways along the Shatt al-Arab, which are water crossing points used by smugglers and infiltrators, who rely on small boats to move between the coastal border gaps.
This year, Iraqi Coast Guard patrols have arrested dozens of drug smugglers after spotting and pursuing their boats or ambushing them from land or water as they attempted to cross into the country from Iran.
Several infiltration attempts from Iranian territory also were thwarted, most recently on November 25, when 55 Pakistani infiltrators were arrested while attempting to enter the country illegally in the Shatt al-Arab region.